Despite the White House press office misspelling her name three times in the press schedule sent to journalists, British Prime Minister Theresa May was the first foreign leader to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday.
After the two leaders spoke in the Oval Office, they held a joint-press conference — which lasted a mere 18 minutes –, where Trump told reporters that “great days lie ahead for our two peoples.”
May congratulated the President on his “stunning election victory” and thanked Trump for inviting her so soon.
“As you say, the invitation is an indication of the strength and importance of the special relationship that exists between our two countries,” said May. “A relationship based on the bonds of history, of family and common interests.” She added that the Queen had offered up an invitation for the President and the First Lady to pay a state visit to the UK later this year and that he had accepted the invitation.
May told reporters that Trump had confirmed he is “100% in favour of NATO,” despite Trump’s recent assertions that NATO had become “obsolete.” On Thursday, when speaking to Republican lawmakers in Philadelphia, May said that “America’s leadership role in NATO – supported by Britain – must be the central element around which the alliance is built.”
She mentioned that the defence relationship between the two nations was deep and that they would look forward to having immediate “high-level” talks on trade.
In response to one of the four questions asked from reporters (two from U.S. journos and two from Brit journos), Trump was vague and played down the prospect of Russian sanctions being lifted soon saying “it was too early” to talk about sanctions and that he wanted a “great relationship with all countries” but with some countries “that won’t be possible.”
It wasn’t hard to see who had more experience in the political sphere when May asserted that the UK wanted sanctions to continue until the Minsk agreement — a peace deal between Russia and the Ukraine — is implemented.
Trump was grilled from a BBC reporter about his stance on torture, Russia and punishment for abortion saying they sounded like “alarming beliefs,” to which he responded that the new defence secretary, General Mattis, who does not believe in torture, will over-ride Trump on this.
As for Mexico, the President said his call with the Mexican President Pena Nieto today was “very friendly” but that the U.S. would push forward to renegotiate trade deals that would be beneficial for both countries and that he would continue to “represent the American people very strongly.”
The future relationship of the two leaders was questioned given their very different backgrounds – how would May, a vicar’s daughter get along with a “brash” businessman?
“I’m not as brash as you might think,” quipped Trump. “I’m a people person and I think you are too Theresa. I think we are going to have a fantastic relationship,” before pointing to his Scottish roots and highlighting the fact that he predicted the U.K. would leave the European Union.
“I think Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing for your country,” he said. “You’re going to have your own identity and you’re going to be able to make your own trade deals without having someone watching you.”